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On Bulimia

I was bulimic for fourteen years. Today I am free of this destructive binge-purge cycle and have been for the past three-and-a-half years. My recovery began when I made a commitment to myself - to do whatever it took to stop this obsession that kept me hating myself and feeling powerless.

In 1981, treatment centers for this eating disorder were unknown to me, so it was a lot harder to get help than it is today. I created a support system by deciding to write my master's thesis on the recovery from bulimia. I interviewed therapists and recovering bulimics. Talking to women who were farther along the path of recovery inspired me to keep going even when I felt scared and hopeless. One person in particular I'll never forget - a woman who had hidden her binge-purge behavior from her husband and children for twenty-five years. She shared so openly, as did many others, and helped me to open to the strong part in me that knew I could and would overcome this destructive behavior.

Here are the major steps I took:

  • I became ruthlessly honest with myself and everyone in my life. Basically, I stopped hiding my behavior and my feelings.
  • I learned to ask for what I really wanted, and to say No" to what I didn't - in my relationships and all other areas of my life.
  • I realized that food and weight issues were not really about food and weight, so I attended groups and workshops to work through the underlying emotional issues - like low self-esteem, perfectionism, and a need to be in control.
  • I gave up the need to be thin, and decided I'd rather be happy. (Paradoxically, after a temporary weight gain, I lost weight and have maintained it with ease.)
  • I stopped looking for an external authority to tell me how to live my life (that is, what I should eat, what I should weigh, how I should act or feel) and began to look inside and trust that I had those answers for myself.
  • I stopped beating up on myself when I had made a mistake. Instead, I used my energy to learn about myself, rather than feeling wrong or guilty about my mistakes.
  • I stopped being a victim, blaming circumstances and people in my life, and took responsibility for myself and my bulimia. Once I accepted that I had chosen to be bulimic, I freed myself to choose otherwise.

My life isn't problem-free now by any means. But knowing that I conquered bulimia gives me courage to face any problems in my life.

If you are currently struggling to overcome any eating disorder, you need to know that recovery is possible! Today, most hospitals have special programs for dealing with your particular needs, and there are therapists who are trained to work with you. Please don't be ashamed to seek help. I did it. You can too. —Jo Sherrill

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